The Outsiders London is delighted to present their first solo exhibition with Chloe Early, a leader of the new contemporary painting movement. The Irishborn, London-based artist’s solo show Suspended opens early this April.
Chloe’s latest body of work is a collection of oil paintings whose colours radiate forth from the aluminium panels they are painted upon. The pieces are partly inspired by Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s infamous mid-1700s sculpture, The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa. A century beforehand Theresa, a nun, wrote vividly of her visitation by an angel: “The pain was so great, that it made me moan: and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it.” The sculpture itself, still on display at the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome, raised eyebrows for its compelling combination of both religious and sexual euphoria.
It is the state of ecstasy, both spiritual and otherwise, that Chloe examines in Suspended. Painting the pieces, the artist was compelled by “the role of wonder and rapture in art,” and equally a lack of it in contemporary society: “In Renaissance times wonder and rapture were expressed through the worship of God and depicting religious imagery,” she says, “What do we worship these days? I decided that in these works I want to transcend all the background noise and elevate my figures out of the mundane and into a more celestial space, suspending them there for the viewer and for myself.”
Suspended features a number of show-stopping large format paintings nearly two metres by two metres in dimension, plus up to ten smaller works forty cms square which could be said to be painterly examinations of gravity and weightlessness. While the paintings echo the radiant, otherworldly splendor of Renaissance religious art, they employ contemporary figures and motifs to potent effect.
In the piece Something Shiny Slips Away, the starkness at the core of our society is represented by the subjects in thrall to helium balloons in primary colours – symbols of excess, celebration, and, ultimately, transience – frivolous, yet temporary. In direct contrast other pictures such as Queen of the Wild Frontier show their subjects in pursuit of an owl, traditionally a symbol of the timeless, everlasting power of nature. Loose feathers flutter in the composition suggesting struggle and perhaps the fall of angels.
Besides religious art, Suspended also alludes to the Romantic movement – itself a reaction to an increasingly mechanised, secular era and a consistent influence upon the artist. In either sense, the figures strive for a higher purpose: “They are caught in a moment of weightlessness, between a rise and fall, ‘suspended’ in their endeavours,” says the artist, “will they achieve Theresa’s ecstatic state or die trying?”
Rather than indulge in contemporary trends for chasing enlightenment, pilgrimage instead to Chloe Early’s Suspended this spring.
Raised in Cork, Ireland in 1980 and now based in east London, Chloe Early is a leading figure in the revival of representational painting. Her blockbuster vignettes combine the drama and ambition of Renaissance and Romantic painting with considered contemporary figures. Her work represents a splendid example of the iron fist in a velvet glove strategy, examining the sensitive and personal aspects of conflict, ambition and entropy in an opulent, cinematic style. Graduating from Dublin’s NCAD in 2003 Chloe moved to London in 2004 where she’s lived and worked since. Before exhibiting with The Outsiders she has enjoyed shows in London, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and on her home turf of Cork and Dublin.
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